Why the Oromo Nationalist Lemma Megersa and his party need to be taken with a grain of salt
borkena, Ethiopian News
In spite of its appeal patrons who espouse it as “identity politics”, Ethnic politics is a hub of hate and idiocy- not to mention that it is a recipe for devastating conflict as seen in the very recent history of Rwanda.
When the Bale forest was blazing sometime in the year 2000, Oromo students at Addis Ababa University had held a meeting to plan an expedition to the scene to fight the fire. What was bad about it was that they didn’t let AAU students who do not speak Oromo language to be part of the expedition. A fourth-year Political Science student, Daniel, was outraged during a meeting at Ledet cafe in Siddist Kilo main campus and told Oromo student organizers “You do not put the fire off in oromigna language. If the expedition is about fighting the fire, we[non-oromo students] have to be a part of it.” Apparently, OPDO (Oromo People’s Democratic Organization) and “caffee oromiyaa” funded the expedition and they had a hand in excluding non-Oromo speaking students from helping fight a fire in Bale forests.
Now OPDO, which is essentially as ethno nationalist as Oromo Liberation Front when it comes to “Oromo cause” except that it is fighting from within, seem to have a different political tone. Last month, about 200 Oromo youth were sent to Bahir Dar city to help fight water weed over lake Tana in what many Ethiopians considered as a positive political gesture and there was some euphoria about it. Today, about 250 Aba Geda elders and prominent individuals including singers (like Ali Bira, Kemer Yusuf and Tadele Gamachu) are in Bahir Dar in what is said to be a visit to promote “unity and and brotherhood” between Amhara and Oromo. The visit came in the wake of brutal ethnic-based violence in Buno Bedelle Zone and Nekemte that caused the death of innocent civilians and many of whom were killed for being an “alien who do not belong to the region” – in the very region of Ethiopia that they lived for two or more generations as Ethiopians. The Bahir Dar visit is said to be Lemma Megeresa’s project.
“Transformation of OPDO” in terms of relation to TPLF and to Ethiopians is being attributed to Lemma Megeresa and his team (specifically Vice president Dr. Abiy Ahmed and Communication head, Addisu Arega) On the surface, the relation with TPLF has become sour while OPDO is demonstrating interest in working “for the good of Ethiopians” as a whole. These are the first politicians whose words are positively quoted by Ethiopians for the first time in the history of TPLF government.
The question is can they be taken for their words? And from the point of view of pragmatism, is it possible for an ethno-nationalist party to travel along the path that would benefit all Ethiopians and transform relations between Ethiopians to a positive one? Even if we assume that the current administration has good intentions, without forgetting divergent skeptical views about it, is it realistic to expect that they would be able to do it given what radical Oromo ethno-nationalism has done in the Oromo region at the grassroots in terms of radicalizing the youth?
There needs to be clarity about the fact that Lemma Megersa is an ethno-nationalist, there is no other way to it. As a product of ethno-centric and ethno-nationalist political system, his political world view is impacted by it. Even based on what many are considering to be a progressive speech from Lemma Megersa’s recent appearances, it is not clearly seen that he has liberated himself from ethno-nationalism – and that is the very reason that he should not be mistaken for a kind of Che Guvera with brilliant political vision and commitment for all Ethiopians. As things stand now, in terms of political consciousness, he is not even Mengistu Hailemariam – an Oromo and a patriotic Ethiopian- or even many of Mengistu’s Oromo colleagues in his government like Debela Dinsa or what have you.
He is still a captive and a champion of ethnic politics – there is no second guessing about it. In February 2017, he made a speech about Oromo unity and Oromo economic revolution and there was no substance about Ethiopia as a whole except that he mentioned to avoid blaming “others for Oromo failure “and the failure was, for him, “Oromos did not unite.”
The only thing about Lemma is that he might rather be a cunning politician with interest in playing ethnic politics a little differently in a way to appeal to other Ethiopians. The tension with the Somali region, no matter who orchestrated it,might have alarmed his administration that ethno-nationalism might not land his party and “his people” in a political paradise if the skepticism and antagonism to ethnic politics from other Ethiopians is not neutralized. Like all ethno-nationalists , he employs ambiguous concepts and words when talking about Ethiopia and of course it could mean that the OPDO party has do different stance.
However, it does not constitute a political wisdom for Ethiopia and Ethiopians to dismiss him and the “transformed OPDO” entirely as the initiatives could be usable in the effort to transform the crippling ethnic ideology to one that truly transforms Ethiopia to be free,democratic and fair to all Ethiopians.
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